Artists / Gallery

Rainer Arnulf

Baden bei Wien *1929

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The artistic significance of Arnulf Rainer, born in Baden in 1929, is irrevocable. His overpaintings, created in the 1950s, and his intensive search for new paths in painting make him one of the most important representatives of the Austrian avant-garde and Informel.

Arnulf Rainer studied at the Staatsgewerbeschule in Villach from 1947 to 1949. His initial works were surreal-figurative. In the summer of 1951 he visited André Breton in Paris together with Maria Lassnig. There he found his way to abstraction on the occasion of an exhibition of the Abstract Expressionists. Influenced by the works of Jackson Pollock and Riopelle, he began with overpaintings, the monochrome pictures in black. In 1953 he also devoted himself to blind paintings.

In 1953 Rainer met the Catholic priest Monsignore Otto Mauer in Vienna, a patron of the Austrian avant-garde, who founded the Galerie nächst St. Stephan the following year. In November 1955 Rainer had his first solo exhibition. Among his colleagues were Wolfgang Hollegha, Markus Prachensky and Josef Mikl.

Rainer gained experience with drugs and conducted studies in psychiatric clinics. In the second half of the 1950s he transferred these overpaintings to photographs of himself. This artistic preoccupation with his own body is connected with a search for identity and the exploration of his own body language. His self-portrayals, Face Farces and Body Poses, are reminiscent of the works of the Vienna Actionists. He also created expressive finger paintings and large cross series, especially in the 70s.

Since 1977, death became the central theme: Rainer worked with overpaintings of death masks, death faces and depictions of the cross. In 1981 he was appointed professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna as head of a master class for painting. He continued this teaching activity until 1995. Among his honours is the Austrian State Prize for Graphic Art, which he received in 1966. In 1978 he was honoured with the Austrian State Prize for Painting. In 1981 the city of Frankfurt awarded him the Max-Beckmann-Prize. In the same year he was admitted to the Academy of Arts in Berlin. In 1972, 1977 and 1982 he presented his works at the Documenta in Kassel.

In 1978 and 1980, he represented Austria at the Venice Biennale. In 1989, a retrospective took place at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. On the occasion of his seventieth birthday, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Kunstforum in Vienna organized a large retrospective. Since 2002, the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich has dedicated a separate room to the artist. The Arnulf Rainer Museum was opened in his native town of Baden bei Wien in 2009.

Arnulf Rainer spends most of the year in Enzenkirchen, Upper Austria, where he has converted part of a farm into his studio. During the cold season he works on Tenerife.